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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Photos: Series Captures the Brilliant, Bizarre Branding of Heroin

Photographer Graham MacIndoe's series "All In" is made out of baggies of dope he shot himself.

8 Substance

Graham MacIndoe’s photo series, “All In,” is a reflection on the way drugs are marketed to the consumer. The stark photos of emptied baggies, with labels like “So Amazing” and “Killa” (see below), once contained heroin that the photographer purchased and shot up himself during a five-year addiction (which he also photographed).

MacIndoe, who has been off heroin for four years, says he has always been intrigued by the names and logos that dealers use to “brand” their product. “The addict becomes the ultimate consumer of the ultimate product—following a trail of quirky street names carefully chosen to be instantly recognizable to those in the know,” he writes on his website. ”But there is nothing hidden about the references to good times (‘So Amazing,’ ‘True Romance,’ ‘High Life’), juxtaposed with reminders of the gamble (’9 Lives,’ ‘Black Jack’) and the reality of addiction (‘Flat Liner,’ ‘Undertaker’).”

The baggies were mainly purchased from dealers in the Gowanus and Red Hook neighborhoods of Brooklyn, though some of the brands were available citywide. Many dealers would offer free samples to build “brand awareness.” Then, once they developed a consumer base, dealers would cut the product to increase the margins and build revenues. “But when people drifted off to another brand the dealer would stop cutting and put something better out on the street to bring their clients back,” MacIndoe says, in an interview with Wired. This explains the vast array of different names and logos.

“Addicts are just as much part of the consumer culture swayed by branding and product placement as those who buy iPhones, gym memberships or the latest Lycra whatever,” he says. “But heroin is the ultimate product because you really have to come back again and again.”


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